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Why does the adjective in this phrase meaning "visibly" or "obviously" not agree in gender with the masculine noun ojo?

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  • Welcome to Spanish Language! Funny, I always thoght that it was "a ojos vista", meaning "a la vista de los ojos", but the DRAE records the expression as "a ojos vistas". So this is an intriguing question indeed.
    – Charlie
    Nov 4 '16 at 8:42
  • I would up vote your answer for figuring out or knowing that but I don't have enough points yet :). Nov 4 '16 at 11:45
  • It seems obvious now that the eyes are not what would be seen but in context it's confusing because even masculine objects or verb phrases still use the feminine s. or pl. with no agreement of number to direct object: "El lavado de dinero aumenta a ojos vista en Alemania y los nuevos medios tienen mucho que ver en ello. " and "...que carecen a ojos vista de un fundamento jurídico." Nov 4 '16 at 12:01
  • I knew that I had seen the expression as "a ojos vista"! Don't worry for not upvoting, just keep asking good questions and you will be able to upvote in no time.
    – Charlie
    Nov 4 '16 at 13:28
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The answer is simple: "vistas" does not agree in gender with "ojos", but with "cosas". Think of the expression as "cosas vistas por los ojos", or "cosas a ojos vistas":

[...] y la cosa non es asý: antes, ay en la opiñón de los tales confusión y desvarío, y lo más grave que está claro contra ello es que niegan las cosas vistas por los ojos y acatadas con el entendimiento, y contradizen a sý mesmos de unos conçebtos a otros [...]

- Anónimo, "Traducción castellana del Libro de El Kuzari de Yehudah Halevi", España (c 1450)

The expression is quite old, the first case in the CORDE is the following:

E pues que tenía quien allá fuese que lo devían escusar, e que gelo dezían por el grand peligro que veían a ojos vistas; e le rogavan que lo no quisiese en ninguna guisa fazer.

- Pedro de Corral, "Crónica del rey don Rodrigo, postrimero rey de los godos (Crónica sarracina)", España (c 1430)

Note that according to the DRAE, the preposition a can be substituted sometimes with "por" (as in "a instancias mías", see meaning 19).

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